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La Rochelle's Matthias Haddad celebrates with the Champions Cup trophy.
La Rochelle's Matthias Haddad celebrates with the Champions Cup trophy.
Image: PA

'Positive talks' for 16-team Rugby Club World Cup to take place from 2025

The prospective tournament would take place every four years ahead of a Lions summer, and replace the knockout stage of that season’s Champions Cup.
Jul 21st 2022, 7:12 PM 11,117 19

‘POSITIVE TALKS ARE ongoing between all parties’ involved in a prospective Rugby Club World Cup which would launch in 2025, both the EPCR and English RFU have confirmed.

As first reported by Gavin Mairs in the Telegraph on Wednesday, the 16-team tournament would take place once every four years before a Lions tour, replacing the knockout stages of that season’s European Champions Cup.

The Club World Cup would consist of eight northern hemisphere clubs who emerge from the Champions Cup pool stage, seven from Super Rugby, plus a Japanese side (the URC’s South African franchises are considered ‘northern hemisphere’ clubs in this model). Those 16 sides would be placed in four pools with each playing two matches against teams from the opposite hemisphere. The winner of each pool would progress to the semi-finals ahead of a final which would crown the best club side in the world.

A spokesperson for the EPCR today confirmed that “positive talks are ongoing between all parties regarding a proposal for a Club World Cup.” The EPCR will be making no further comment on the proposal for now, but RFU chief Bill Sweeney was more forthcoming in his endorsement of the idea during a media address this afternoon.

While Sweeney stressed that there was still a “long way to go” and that the tournament is “not a completely done deal yet”, he added that “in terms of direction as a union we certainly support it and the clubs are very keen to get it done.”

“This summer there was a lot of talk around the north-south rivalry”, Sweeney continued, referring to the Six Nations countries’ tours of the southern hemisphere. “There was almost a Ryder Cup situation towards the end there, in terms of was it going to be 6-6 or would the north win all of those final matches on the final weekend.

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“There seems to be more conversation around that and (the Club World Cup) just adds to that in terms of who has the best clubs in the world, the best club set-up. Is it the north or the south?”

It’s understood that the first edition of the tournament would take place only in European locations, with future iterations then held in a sole country from either hemisphere.

A 2025 start would avoid a clash with the proposed new Nations Championship which is currently central to discussions on a global rugby calendar. That competition, which for now feels more concrete, is expected to start in 2024 and be held every two years.

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Gavan Casey

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